Sorry seems to be the hard­est word of all

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Football - Oliver Brown Chief Sports Writer

Of all the as­per­sions cast on the Greeks’ le­gal sys­tem in the Harry Maguire case, per­haps the daftest is their per­ceived temer­ity in con­duct­ing his trial in their own lan­guage. “To make mat­ters worse the pro­ceed­ings are all in a for­eign tongue to him,” wrote Dis­gusted of Doha him­self, Richard Keys. Of course, if Maguire was so wor­ried about events in that Sy­ros court­room be­ing a be­wil­der­ing blur, then he could have coun­te­nanced a truly dras­tic mea­sure, like turn­ing up.

As the dust set­tled on Maguire’s con­vic­tions for as­sault, re­sist­ing ar­rest and at­tempted bribery, now nul­li­fied in the wake of his ap­peal, the com­mon thread among re­ac­tions in Greece was one of in­dig­na­tion at the player’s ar­ro­gance. As Ioan­nis-Iakovos Par­adis­sis, the lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the po­lice of­fi­cers Maguire was ac­cused of as­sault­ing, pointed out, there was never a trace of con­tri­tion. He de­scribed such be­hav­iour as “in­sult­ing, both for the po­lice and the coun­try in which they come for va­ca­tion”.

Ac­cord­ing to the Keys school of thought, the trial was a “sham”, with a far­ci­cal judg­ment handed down with in­de­cent haste by a kan­ga­roo court. There is, how­ever, an­other side to all this: that the Greek courts fol­low an in­quisi­to­rial sys­tem, where three judges bom­bard the de­fen­dant with ques­tions. It could hardly have harmed Maguire to hon­our such a pro­ce­dure with his pres­ence.

In­stead, those in court were left with the im­pres­sion of a man who lacked hu­mil­ity. “My clients told me they are still wait­ing for an apol­ogy,” Par­adis­sis said. “This is what I find quite shock­ing and un­sports­man­like, be­cause fair play means when I’ve done some­thing wrong, I apol­o­gise.”

In the words of Maguire’s brother, Lau­rence, there is “no chance” any apol­ogy will be forth­com­ing. Manch­ester United have de­cided, too, that the cen­tre-back should keep the cap­tain’s arm­band. The club stress that as Maguire’s ap­peal has since been ac­cepted in Greece, he has no crim­i­nal record and a full re­trial is to take place in a more se­nior court. The na­ture of the Greek ju­di­cial process has sat­is­fied United that he is in­no­cent.

By the let­ter of the law, Maguire is free to travel without re­stric­tions and to lead United for as long as the club deem fit. The fact re­mains, though, that he is await­ing re­trial in a case se­ri­ous enough for an Aegean court to have ini­tially handed him a sus­pended 21-month prison sen­tence. Such is the back­log of ap­peals in Greece, it could be months, maybe more, be­fore Maguire has the chance to clear his name. Can such a sword of Damo­cles sim­ply be ig­nored?

At in­ter­na­tional level, Maguire has al­ready paid the price, with Gareth South­gate re­sist­ing any move to re­in­state him in the Eng­land squad. But at Old Traf­ford, his fu­ture seems to be set fair, even af­ter the ra­dioac­tive head­lines his hol­i­day in Mykonos has at­tracted.

It is now a fe­ro­cious de­bate, this ques­tion of whether Maguire is wor­thy of re­tain­ing United’s trust. At one level, this is a straight­for­ward is­sue of due process, of al­low­ing him ev­ery av­enue to pro­tect his per­sonal and pro­fes­sional rep­u­ta­tion. But at an­other, it is a mat­ter of per­cep­tion. In the death­less anal­y­sis of Keys, the trial in Sy­ros was null and void be­cause Maguire was just “not the type to play the big-time card”. It is the go-to crutch of my­opic man­agers ev­ery­where: a de­fender can all but slice an op­po­nent in half, but still be blame­less in his mas­ter’s eyes be­cause he is “not that type of player”.

The ar­gu­ment that Maguire is “not the type” be­trays a level of sub­con­scious pre­sump­tion. It sug­gests that we are con­di­tioned to be­lieve that Maguire is ex­actly the type of per­son, as he in­sists, to de­fend his sis­ter in a Mykonos street, but not the type, as Greek pros­e­cu­tors al­lege, to ask lo­cal po­lice: “Do you know who I am?”

For United, Maguire’s ap­peal changes the game. But even af­ter the guilty ver­dict had been read out, there was no recog­ni­tion of its le­git­i­macy, the club say­ing only that their player “strongly as­serted his in­no­cence”. Would they have dared is­sue such a re­sponse if the rul­ing had been handed down in a UK court? This is what has an­tag­o­nised Maguire’s Greek hosts so much; the lack of re­spect for their ju­di­cial sys­tem and the as­sump­tion that the ver­dict given in Sy­ros was in­valid. In their view, this ugly episode is one that again shows English foot­ball at its hubris­tic worst.

Cryp­tic mes­sage: Harry Maguire’s post on In­sta­gram af­ter he was re­moved from the Eng­land squad

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